Thursday, June 20, 2013

North Carolina State University on Climate Change and Sustainability

Tuesday my family and I visited the Nansemond River Golf Club in nearby Suffolk, VA. As the family of a recent NC State graduate, we had been invited to attend a regional alumni event.

The topic of the guest speaker, "NC State's Role in Protecting Our Global Food Supply," interested us, so we went. The speaker was Richard H. Linton, NC State's new Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He had recently been hired away from Ohio State.

Richard H. Linton, Dean of NC State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Linton was told to keep his remarks limited to about 20 minutes because State had a big baseball game coming up, the alumni were fans and wanted to watch it, and the administration was in a hurry to head back to Raleigh. This disappointed me. Soil and water are the two most important resources for any civilization to thrive, or even to survive, and with the environmental and population pressures the world is facing, Linton's talk was far more important than a baseball game. But he did well with the limited time he was given.

The Agricultural Challenges that the U.S. faces in the 21st Century

I learned that North Carolina is in the top ten agricultural crop-producing states in the United States (Linton ranked it at #3). I also learned that NC State plays an important role in crop production through its research and through its very active Cooperative Extension network.  NC State is active in developing new plants and in adapting plants so they will grow in North Carolina. He said that clean water will be an increasingly important national and global concern. He also emphasized the urgent necessity of growing enough food for a rapidly increasing word population. Unfortunately, the audience was not given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of his presentation.

I emailed Dr. Linton for an article he promised to forward about the backyard chicken movement (it was excellent). But I was disappointed that he didn't answer my inquiry regarding NC State's plant development practices and to what extent they were focusing on GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Ohio State has the reputation for being the epitome of "Big Ag," and so I remain curious what role organic and small-scale farms have in NC State's vision for the future.

In a world where 20-minute presentations on questions of world importance take a back seat to college athletics, we may never know.

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